Retail food and drink trends

Unilever expanding its range of plant-based foods to meet growth and demand

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Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, has said expanding its range of plant-based foods will be its main priority, as the sector continues to be among the fastest-growing consumer markets.

The group is looking to meet a target of a €1bn share of plant-based food business in just five to seven years time, comparing to the €200m business that they currently see from plant-based foods.

As reported by the Guardian, Alan Jope commented, ““We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets.”

Analysts at Barclays have predicted the value of the global plant-based food and drink market could soar by more than 1,000% to exceed £100bn by the end of the decade. With the plant-based food market comprising lots of tiny businesses, acquisition targets for Unilever are less obvious than in other sectors. However, Jope said if it identified a promising candidate, “we will take a look at it”. It already owns meat substitute brand The Vegetarian Butcher.

The group, which owns more than 400 brands, reported a 6% drop in underlying profits to €9.4bn on sales of €50.7bn on the back of a “volatile and unpredictable year”.

The lifestyle changes forced upon consumers by the pandemic mean the company has had to manage seesawing levels of demand over the past 12 months. While shoppers filled kitchen cupboards with Hellman’s, Pot Noodles and Cif surface spray, they cut back on its shampoos and deodorants. It was also hit by the closure of the restaurants and cafes it supplies with ice-cream.

The Anglo-Dutch company, which manufactures 80% of the goods it sells in the UK on these shores, said it had experienced some Brexit-related teething problems, particularly around the flow of goods into Ireland, although the situation had since improved. “The next wave of rules are kicking in on 1 April and our team are very busy preparing to make sure that goes smoothly,” said Jope.

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